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No Signs COVID-19 Lessening, Worse in Hard-Hit Northern Greece

Αssociated Press

A man, wearing a protective mask against the spread of coronavirus, walks with his dog at central Monastiraki square, in Athens, Saturday, Nov. 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Yorgos Karahalis)

ATHENS - Two weeks into a three-week lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 in Greece, there's no indications it's working, especially in northern Greece and the country's second-largest city and major port of Thessaloniki.

“The viral load has not decreased,” especially in northern Greece, Deputy Minister of Civil Protection, Nikos Hardalias, said during a regular briefing on the evolution of the pandemic..

That could set the stage for the lockdown to be extended past Dec. 1 when it was expected to be lifted in a desperate bid to save the economy from another shock after a first lockdown in the spring and save a critical Christmas revenue period.

Thessaloniki was shut down a week before the general lockdown as the Coronavirus raged through the city after many people, as they did elsewhere in Greece, wouldn't wear masks or keep a safe social distance, paying the price.

Government spokesman Stelios Petsas had already said the epidemiological signs – a record 108 deaths on Nov. 21 and 522 people in overwhelmed Intensive Care Units (ICU's) needing ventilators – showed the lockdown would be longer.

“The intention is to start a gradual lifting [of the lockdown]….But let us not relax the implementation of the [health] measures,” said Hardalias, adding that the decision would be based at the time on the data.

Athens University professor Vana Papaevangelou, who sits on the government's scientific and medical advisory board said, “It is worrying that there is no clear reduction of the viral wave three weeks after the lockdown in northern Greece and two weeks after the implementation of horizontal measures throughout Greece,” she told journalists at the same briefing.

“According to our experience from last spring, one would expect a greater reduction (of infections,” she said, Prime Minister and New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis lamenting he waited too long to bring the second lockdown.

He said he wanted to prevent another shock to an economy that was staggering after a first lockdown in the spring for 10 weeks saw many businesses close and fears more will be shuttered if the second closure is extended.

Papaevangelou said the median age of those infected in recent days nationwide is 45, falling fast as more young people became infected as they continued partying and going to nightclubs and bars allowed to stay open until too late.

The number of patients treated for COVID-19 patients not needing critical care surpassed 4,000 while 522 were on ventilators in overwhelmed hospital Intensive Care Units (ICU's) that had been doubled during the eight-month pandemic.